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September 2003

Up-the-Hill 2003:
Racers triumph over heat, altitude.

To get in shape for the 24th annual Up-the-Hill Races on 8 August, Barbara Noziere did the sensible thing: she twice ran up the hill to the Mesa Lab. And that was a good thing, because the visiting ACD scientist flew in from Miami just four days before the race and struggled to acclimatize to the mile-plus elevation of the Boulder area.

After her second training run on 6 August, "I had a headache and my throat and lungs ached," Barbara recalls.

Nevertheless, Barbara scored a notable athletic feat by finishing the race in 13 minutes flat, number two among the women. Barbara, who participated in Up-the-Hill Races in the late 1990s while working in the Advanced Study Program, says she owes her strong finish to veteran runner Betty Valent (F&A), who set a steady pace and finished just 17 seconds behind her.

Fresh from sea level, Barbara Noziere finishes a strong second. (Photos by Bob Henson.)

QuickTime video!
Julia Lee-Taylor, Barbara Noziere, and Betty Valent
lead the women's contingent in the foot race.

Barbara's run was one of several highlights of the annual competition. The Employee Activities Committee moved the date from September to August to accommodate F&A staffers, some of whom have missed the event in the past because of the press of work they face at the end of each fiscal year. (The first Up-the-Hill Races were also held in August; see the sidebar below.)

As a result of the move, participants had to battle not only the hill but also the summer heat (the mercury hovered about 90°F during the contest). A couple of traditional winners skipped the event because of commitments to other races during the weekend—allowing some former second-place winners to claim first place this year.

But the heat didn't bother MMM's Alan Hills. In the first race of the afternoon, he took first place among the cyclists with a time of 5:44, edging out HAO's Eirik Endeve by just one second. ATD's Christopher Dyroll was third at 6:03.

Alan Hills finishes just ahead of Eirik Endeve.

QuickTime video!
Alan Hills whizzes toward the finish line,
followed closely by Eirik Endeve (seen briefly behind Alan in the video).
Only a few moments later, Cristoph Dyroff and Jonathan Emmett arrived.

It was a particularly sweet victory for Alan, who dominated the race for much of the 1980s and 1990s but has since struggled with injuries. This marked his 10th victory. "I was in one piece this year," he joked after the race. "I've been waiting for this 10th time, and it took me six years."

Leading the women cyclists was RAP's Beth Chorbajian at 7:48, followed by RAP's Anne-Marie Tarrant at 8:22 and F&A's Vicki White at 10:30. "It was hot," said Beth, who came in just one second behind her second-place time last year. "I got kind of dehydrated, but it was a fun ride." Although she cut down on her riding time over the past year, she credited her first-place finish in part to feeling stronger after going on a vegan diet.

QuickTime video!
Beth Chorbajian (shown here in a mini-peloton just behind Arnaud Dumont and Alex Preiser)
leads the women's bike pack. She's followed by Anne-Marie Tarrant and Vicki White,
who throws caution to the winds by pulling two seconds ahead of Rick Anthes.

Next came the runners. SCD's John Tribbia won handily with a time of 8:45, followed by two MMM staffers: Tony Vodacek (9:26) and Carl Schmitt (9:32). John, a student assistant who runs cross country at the University of Puget Sound in Washington, says he was unbothered by the heat. "I just started going and never looked back," he said.

John Tribbia left the other runners in Tribbial pursuit.

QuickTime video!
Out in front in the men's road race
are John Tribbia, Tony Vodacek, Carl Schmitt, and José Garcia.

ACD's Julia Lee-Taylor, last year's second-place finisher, took first place among the women with a time of 12:36, followed by Barbara and Betty. Despite the heat, she said, "I thought it was a great race."

Julia Lee-Taylor stays just ahead of Dick Valent.

Last came the day's most colorful event: the relay race. This year's theme was a birthday party, and each team had to use a Styrofoam birthday cake for its baton. How to decorate the cakes? ACD decided to use large models of molecules, while ATD installed batteries to create exploding candles.

Steve Massie shows off the ACD cake.

QuickTime video!
Let them carry cake: relayers dash toward the mesa top.

EO scored first with the judges in the cake-decorating competition with a depiction of the mesa, populated by animals in party hats. But it was CGD that actually took first place in the multipart formula that determines the relay race winner. (The formula includes running time, cake decoration, and percentage of division participation.) CGD director Maurice Blackmon crossed the finish line first, holding a cake that portrayed differing ways of ascending the mesa--including little runner and bicyclist figures.

"We tried to get all the possible modes of transport in there," explained CGD's Julie Caron. Noting that the cake also included figures of mountain lions and other animals, she added, "We didn't want to be speciesists. We were inclusive."

Three staffers participated in each of the events: Arnoud Dumont (RAP), Tim Lim (ATD), and Niles Oien (RAP). After the relay, everyone headed to the tree plaza for the post-race festivities.

•David Hosansky

Linda Dettling (NCAR Science Store) shows off one of the many birthday cakes created for the race.


Above: John Firor in 1982.

Top: The first Up-the-Hill bike race drew 5 women and 16 men. Winners were Ben Domenico (now with Unidata) and Alice Lecinski (HAO). Winners in the foot race were Rick Katz (ESIG) and Caryn Wasserman. (File photo by Robert Bumpas.)

How it started

When John Firor (left) found himself in a predicament 23 years ago, he never guessed that a UCAR/NCAR tradition would result from it.

Firor, now a senior research associate in ESIG, was NCAR's executive director in 1980 as the center embarked on plans for its 20th anniversary. "Various people were urging that we invite a number of famous people—senators, governors, and so on—to give short talks about how great NCAR was," John recalls.

He wasn't keen on the idea. "Too often such invitees have to cancel on short notice, are rather demanding of amenities before they accept, and probably would talk about how great their county, state, and so on were, rather than praise NCAR--which most of them probably had never heard of. So, to get off the hook, I had to have an alternative.

"Having seen several bikers and one runner going up the driveway that morning, it occurred to me that races up the hill might be attractive to at least a few of the staff. So I proposed such an event and got no objections from any one." On a hot afternoon in late August 1980, 21 bicyclists and 23 runners made their sweaty way up the mesa. The races were a smash hit—and a ritual was born.

John admits to "a certain parental interest in something I started in desperation and which has proven a success. I attend whenever I can and read the list of winners when I can't." •Bob Henson